Having sinned, the man and woman must now face judgment. Before we consider God’s judgment upon their sin, however, we notice that even his wrath is mixed with mercy. He did not storm the garden with fire and fury as was his right. Rather, God wooed the man out of his hiding that he might acknowledge his sin. It is also worth noting that the man and woman are spared physically. Certainly decay and death have now entered the human experience. Spiritual death has fractured their once harmonious communion with God. The earth, their home, will experience the same sorts of decay. But God spares them for a glorious purpose. Nevertheless, God’s mercy does not nullify the need for justice.
God pronounces a series of curses upon the serpent, the woman, and finally the man. Take note of God’s sovereignty throughout. God’s absolute rule has in no way been diminished by the wicked actions of his creatures. The attempt of the man and woman to be as God is revealed as a pathetic fantasy. Even the ancient foe is proved to be unable to act apart from the willing of God.
We must be careful to not say more than the Scriptures allow. But it seems clear that the fall, while tragic and wicked, played a part in God’s sovereign design to magnify his glory in judgment and mercy. Indeed, God’s work of redeeming sinful man was decreed long before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10; Revelation 13:8). So God’s response to the sin of the man and woman was not complete destruction. But in the midst of the curses pronounced there was also a promise.
In what Martin Luther called the proto euangelion – the first gospel – the Lord God promised that the serpent would be finally slain by a descendent of the woman (3:15). In a display of sovereign grace, the Lord snatched the woman from the clutches of Satan and made her the progenitor of the Messiah. No wonder genealogies are so important in Scripture. They are a record of God’s faithfulness to his promise to send the Savior. As if to foreshadow the work of Christ, God takes the life of a blameless one in order to provide coverings for the guilty man and woman even as he will one day offer up his Son to cover sinners with his righteousness.